Product Review - Yosi Samra Flats

You may remember my Tried It Tuesday when I talked about Tieks. I had decided that they weren't for me for the amount that I paid for them.

About a week or so ago, I was contacted by Morgan from {Yosi Samra} to see if I would be interested in trying their flats. Of course I said yes.

A few days ago, I received {these cuties} to review.

Cute box - check!
Cute carrying bag - check!

Ignore jeans and pasty-white, dry feet!

I certainly wasn't expecting them to send me something so cute! Since I already sent back my Tieks, I can't compare the two. However, I can compare them to my similarly-priced Hush Puppies.

First of all, these shoes fit very well. Since I have biggish feet (I wear a 9.5, and these are a 10), I was concerned that the other brands would slip off my feet as I walked. I can honestly say that I think that these shoes will be staying put. In comparison to the others brands, these have a fairly wide elastic band around the edge. They feel very secure. My toes don't feel like they're poking through the top.

I also find them to be comfortable, although I will be wearing them with some sort of sock since my feet tend to sweat. That's not specific to this shoe, just true for me in all shoes like these. I know, TMI.

They are worth checking out if you love Tieks, but hate the price. Most of the styles I looked at were well under $100. If I would have purchased these, they would have been worth the cost, in my opinion. Or, you can get in on the tail end of a series of giveaways they're doing on {Facebook}. They also have flip flops, bags, and kids shoes!


Product Review - Neat Seat

If you have been a regular reader of my blog, you already know that I'm slightly OCD when it comes to organization and such.

So when I have class sizes of up to 27 students and only 25 desks, I have to use two desks that don't match the rest of my desks. Grr. Anyway, these desks don't have much for storage - just a rack under the seat. Which is fine for middle schoolers that keep everything in their lockers, but our fifth graders do keep SOME things in the desks. I have them keep their textbooks and interactive notebooks in the desks, but there wasn't always enough room on the rack, so I had them use a container from Really Good Stuff.

As you can see, it didn't work that great.

So when {EAI Education} asked me to pick a new product to review, I knew that I had to give the Neat Seats a chance.

These were a cinch to attach to the seat. I found that I wanted to keep the large textbooks under the seat as before, because the pockets aren't deep enough to keep a bunch of thick books inside of it. However, they are roomy enough for the folders that I wanted to store. The top of the Neat Seat extends about 2-3 inches beyond the tops of the folders, so it would easily fit some oversized items. The Velcro closure isn't really necessary for my needs, but I could see this doubling as a take-home bag of some sort since it has a nice handle at the top. At $5 each, I feel that they are a good value. After checking out the website a little more, they offer bulk discounts if you wanted to outfit the whole class. NOTE - I just noticed that they are currently on sale for 4 assorted colors (green, purple, blue, and orange) for $19.95, but I am too lazy right now to fix the information in the picture.

If you are interested in these or any other item from EAI Education, use this free shipping promo code - FITMFS2014. This code is valid on all orders of $30+ with regular shipping exceptions applying (ie: cannot be applied to calculators, drop ship items, carpets, etc).


Explorer Trading Card Assessment

We are furiously wrapping up our explorers unit because this year our quarter ends at winter break. Probably not the best time to assess...

Through our explorers unit, I have been making explorer trading cards for each person that we study. I got the free template from {Ginger Snaps}. I easily added pictures of the explorers that we covered.

Then I did a timeline along my ceiling to show how the clustered during the appropriately-named Age of Exploration.

Back to the trading cards. To assess the students (and pull in some CCSS), I asked them to assign a value to each explorer, much like a sports collector might assign a value to a baseball card. We talked about how baseball cards were valued (rookie card, MVP, great stats, etc.) and talked about how that might translate to explorers. When they assigned a value, they had to give me an explanation on why that decided on that value. As I circulated, I heard some really great conversations about the explorers' contributions to history. I also heard conversations about how they shouldn't be ranked on how attractive they were (I kid you not - every time I handed out a new card, some of the kids would comment about his attractiveness...) or if the students liked them or not (ie. Columbus, Cortes, and Pizarro).

I was very impressed with their focus on this particular project, and I will definitely revisit this assessment next year.



Elf for Hire

First of all...

a Rafflecopter giveaway

My students have been having a fun time with Elf for Hire. This is something that I have done in years past, but I like how this is laid out with graphic organizers. Plus, it was free from Teresa Kwant! Click on the image below to download it from TpT.

I modeled how to fill out the graphic organizer. If you use Write Tools like I do, then the opinion would be coded green, the reasons would be yellow, and the evidence would be red. From the graphic organizer, they created a rough draft after I modeled it. Again, I had them highlight the opinion (topic) green, the reasons (big ideas) yellow, and the evidence (details) red. I also had them circle the transition words that they used in their yellow sentences, as well as having them double-check that their yellow sentences were the first sentences of their paragraphs. From that, they typed up their "applications" so they could read them for the class.

Another component was to invent a new toy. Students had a lot of fun coming up with pictures of crazy toys and descriptions of what they did.

I also took pictures of the students so that they could use to "elf" themselves. My coworker actually found these, but I remember seeing them somewhere in the past year or two. If you know the source, please let me know so I can credit them.

With those same pictures, I made identification cards for them to show that they were North Pole "employees". I used the {free clipart} from Krista Walden for the cute hats :) The other graphic is a Googled item, so that's what I can't share the file :(

AMC also has a great variation on this activity with different positions for which the students can apply. Click on the image to see it in her store.


Tried It Tuesday - Vino Van Gogh

This is completely unrelated to what I'm doing in the classroom, but it's totally related to what I'm doing to stay sane this holiday season. I recently saw some of my Facebook friends post about something called Vino van Gogh. The concept is that you go to a local restaurant and learn how to paint a picture while having a glass of wine (or whatever else the restaurant serves).

I attended my first one a few weeks ago, and I had a blast even though I didn't know anyone else there! My favorite painting of all time is van Gogh's Starry Night (I know I'm going out on a limb with that one), and the painting that night was a Christmas tree based on the Starry Night style. So I knew that I had to try it.

All of the materials were provided, and the instructors went through it step-by-step so that everyone would be successful during those two hours. While we were all painting the same thing, no two paintings were alike. I don't have a picture of all of the different variations, so you'll just have to take my word for it.

Here is my finished piece of art:

I have already signed up for two more this month, and I will certainly share those when they're finished. Have you ever tried anything like this in your area?

Also be sure to check out a bunch of holiday freebies at {Minds in Bloom}!


How I Taught Columbus This Year

If you are looking for the scavenger hunt, click {here}.

This year, I decided to focus more on point of view/author's purpose when talking about Columbus. Our reading series spends a lot of time on these skills, and I thought that it would be natural to incorporate the skills into this particular topic. It seems to me that Columbus and Columbus Day has become more controversial in the past few years, so the whole goal of this was to make the students decide... Is Columbus a hero or villain?

First we read about what our old textbooks said about him. We came up with the following list about what we read and inferred from the text.

Then we watched a video about Columbus that was part of the "Animated Hero Classics".

After that, we watched another video based off of the book by Jean Fritz (can you tell that we were near Thanksgiving break?!)

We did a few more resources, including Encounter by Jane Yolen. We did some figurative language and inferring activities with that book.

Finally, I had them write an opinion piece about whether they thought Columbus was a hero or villain with three supporting ideas and two details about each supporting idea. Many students went the villain route, but there were a few that made compelling hero arguments.



Early Exploration Continued

This will be a hodge-podge post as I find time to write here and there.

I just finished and uploaded (it is currently Thursday) a QR code review that I'm doing with my kids tomorrow. We are about a third of the way through our explorers unit, and I usually do some review and/or a test at this point. After the success of my Native American one, I knew that I had to do this again. This time, I uploaded this particular activity as a freebie. Click below to grab it.
Aaaaaand Monday is here and I still haven't finished this post. Guh.

Anyway, early last week, we studied Prince Henry, Dias (did you know that no two resources seem to spell his name the same way?!), and da Gama. My students always confuse the latter two, so I tried to think of some way to keep them distinct this year. In the past, I've had them color a map and trace the two routes on the map in different colors. Under the flip book, we collectively wrote summaries for each of them.

This year I remembered that the students should be working harder than the teacher, or maybe I was just feeling a little lazy. So the first thing that I did was create this:

We started with filling it out with Ericson and Polo so they could get the hang of it. Then we applied it to Prince Henry, Dias, and da Gama. Prince Henry was a little tricky since he didn't actually sail on an expedition of his own.

THEN, I gave them a half-sheet of paper with key words and several lines. I asked them to write a summary of Dias using the key words somewhere in it. Then they paired with another student and decided which one to use. Then two pairs got together and chose one between them. Then two sets of quads together settled on one. I quickly typed up the three remaining summaries and those became the three choices that they could copy into their flip book. All students handed in their summaries to make them accountable, yet we ended up with three great choices that I didn't have to write myself.

We did the same with da Gama, and our flip book was finally done!


Thanksgiving Ideas

Last year, I assigned a turkey in disguise activity. I got the idea from Stephanie at Teaching in Room 6. Students had to disguise a turkey so that it wouldn't be Thanksgiving dinner. Then we wrote persuasive paragraphs stating three reasons that they weren't turkeys. I didn't think to keep copies of the paragraphs, but I still have the pictures of the not-a-turkeys :)

One of the new things that I'm doing this year will be my Thanksgiving Common "Core"ses ELA centers. There are five centers for activities including point of view, Latin and Greek roots, author's purpose, verb tense, and figurative language. Click on the picture to check them out!

I'm also thinking of trying this cute little class craft with my students. It goes with the book The Night Before Thanksgiving. Each student creates a feather to help disguise the turkey. The pin doesn't go to the source of this picture, so I'm not sure why the original pinner didn't link it to her blog. If you know the original source of this picture, please let me know so I can update the pin.

Here is a cute little turkey that a student gave my neighbor teacher. It is two rolled up pieces of construction paper with a few handprints attached to the back. I don't have specific instructions, but I'm sure that you crafty teachers can figure it out :)

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